New ADS agreement will bring opportunities to Canadian tourism industry.
Getting ADS in China opens the door to many opportunities for the Canadian tourism industry. Figures from a recent Conference Board of Canada survey point to a 50% increase in travel numbers to Canada from China by 2015. CTC News spoke with Michele McKenzie, president and CEO of the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), who put the agreement in context.
What’s the background to this announcement?
We’ve been invested in China for a number of years now. We did some preliminary work there in the early part of the last decade, and then established an office in China in 2005. This work was carried out in anticipation of ADS and recognized the fact that China will be a growing source of outbound tourism, not just for Canada, but for the world for years to come.
What exactly does Approved Destination Status mean? Why is it so important?
This does cause some confusion as we already receive visitors from China. Approved Destination Status is a process by which the government of China approves destinations for its people. The ADS designation means a country can receive group travellers. Up to now, we’ve been welcoming individual travellers—Chinese who are interested in travel and can put their trips to Canada together themselves. They’ve come as visitors and have gotten visas as such.
With Approved Destination Status, we are now allowed to market in China, and that’s what we’ve really been interested in. Beyond the ability to receive groups, we’ve wanted to market and compete in China for that growing number of visitors.
We want to market primarily to the independent traveller, not so much to groups. The same person that we’re going after right now is the same person that we will be targeting in the future; but we will have much more latitude in terms of how we market to them.
We can now talk directly to these travellers. In the past, we’ve only been able to work through partners, such as airlines, who could deal directly with visitors. We did not have the freedom to market directly. So we’re really quite pleased about the change announced today.
I think it’s been a misconception that we’ve not been able to receive visitors up till now. We have been—it’s just that we’ve been prevented from marketing freely and receiving tour groups.
What opportunities does the ADS agreement present for the tourism industry in Canada?
The big opportunity is that we can now compete on a level playing field with other tourism destinations. They are all going after the same growing Chinese travel market, so we’ll be up against them for the leisure and business travellers. We’ll be competing especially in the area of incentive travel, an increasing part of the Chinese market.
What’s CTC’s role in the ADS agreement? And what does it mean for CTC explicitly?
We have a strong leadership role as a marketer in China. Canada is a very aspirational destination for Chinese travellers. They have a powerful and positive image of our country, and we know that the Canada brand [“Canada. Keep Exploring”] is definitely the lead message in that market.
I think destinations in Canada all agree with that assessment. They will be marketing in China under the Canada brand. So the opportunity for CTC is one of leadership, and to leverage the strong image of Canada with tourism brand messages.
How will CTC work with partners to have the greatest impact?
Partners have all agreed to line up beneath the Canada brand, and we will work together collectively as Canada. It will be interesting how that evolves, as there will be many opportunities all across the country, including Canada’s North.
We understand that our major cities will likely be the first point of travel, even though the China market is very interested in Canada’s wilderness and nature. So the ability to leverage the position around exploring “vibrant cities on the edge of nature,” [one of CTC’s five Unique Selling Propositions for Canada] is a key one in this market as we have a strong product and positioning in that area.
When will opportunities start to play out at CTC so that businesses can join in?
We’ll have a major tradeshow in China in October: this fall. Showcase Canada—Asia 2010 in Beijing will be the first big opportunity post-ADS. We’ve been active in the market all along, and we have lots of partners already lined up. What we’re expecting is that this is more of an opportunity to create more demand in the marketplace. We’ve already got partners attuned to the potential of the market.
China is an export market of growing importance for Canada, generally. The work we will do in tourism can support a strong image of Canada itself and of Canadian products. That will be a big opportunity for our country.
We’ve got good airlift to launch our brand with, which is fabulous, and of course, we have great ties with Chinese-Canadians here.